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Whitstable Town FC: 1950s Programmes

Article Produced in Conjunction with Ian Johnson

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Introduction

   

Despite playing amongst the county's elite, Whitstable were perhaps one of the cinderella clubs - particularly towards the end of the decade when football attendances were declining as a result of competition from other emerging entertainments. This showed in the official programme - a thin production, printed wholly in red ink on flimsy white paper.

Ian Johnson has very kindly scanned and forwarded a selection of pages from his collection. Thus, we can take a wander down memory lane and pick out some key features.

  

That Front Page.... 

   

 As I recall, the front page rarely changed in the late 1950s and it looked like this....

    

  

Even the match details were omitted - presumably to allow mass production and keep costs to a minimum. As a result, it could be sold for just 3 old pennies - 1.2 current day pennies. In fact, this particular  programme was for a big match on Easter Saturday (5 April 1958) against Dover. On Easter Monday, the Belmont featured another attractive match.... against Ashford. It's fascinating to spot some of the names on the list of officials...

  

 

  

The President was the well known local dignitary and historian, Wallace Harvey. It was a good choice. The Hon. Treasurer was also well qualified for the post. Mr H Henley was the Housing Manager of the old Whitstable Urban District and, in the early 1950s, he called at our house every Monday to collect the rent! The Hon Sec was Les Shinglestone who was associated with the club for many years and I believe he features in the 1948/49 team photo on our Introduction page (see photo extract on the right)....

    

Inside Information....

  

The inside pages of the programme were awash with commercial adverts and only three pieces of real information were given - the team sheet, the league tables and some brief "Club Notes"

Team sheets always appeared on the centre pages and,each week,  they were surrounded by the same pre-printed adverts. As you can see, many local businesses were willing to get behind the club with a bit of sponsorship. For that Dover match on 5 April 1958, the page looked like this....  

   

   

If we take a closer look at the team line ups that day, some well known names can be spotted.....

  

  

The silver-haired captain, Frank Cox, was at left back..... the well-remembered Paddy Maher was still plying his trade at left half..... and the tricky Peter Townsend was supplying those beautifully flighted crosses from the left wing. However, on the day, it all came to nought! Dover's super web site shows that Whitstable lost that match 0-2 and that the goals were provided by  two of their top scorers - Fidler and Allum. On the same day, Whitstable Reserves travelled to the Crabble Ground and suffered a worse defeat - going down 2-5 to Dover Reserves.

Apart from the team sheets, other small pieces of information were hidden away amidst the adverts. In one small corner, we discover that Dover's 2-0 win wasn't wholly unexpected.....

  

  

The league table showed Dover in sixth place and town floundering third from bottom....

   

   

Mind you, there was some good news that day.... and it was announced amongst the tiny Club Notes. These were also hidden away amongst the commercials.....

   

 

   

Ron Harris (inside right) had been picked to play for the county amateur team. This is a reminder that, in the 1950s, there was still a distinct line drawn between amateurs and professionals. The Kent League was a mixture of both. The bigger clubs were almost wholly professional but clubs like Whitstable fielded amateurs which explains why winning the league was never really an option.

   

The Cup Run of 1957/58... and a Record

   

When we started out on our Golden Years article, we thought it might fill a couple of web pages. Then, we started to link things together and it grew out of control! A good example of this cropped up when Ian highlighted a story behind two of his programme extracts from the 1957/58 season.

The first contains the teams for an FA Cup First Qualifying Round clash at the Belmont against near neighbours Canterbury City on 21 September 1957.... . 

  

  

The game ended in a disappointing 2-2 draw.... but worry not. A few days later, the Reds travelled to the City  and won 5-1. The result set up a home clash against the mining community of Betteshanger in the next round....

  

   

Frank Cox's men were victorious again. This time, it was a more modest 2-0 scoreline but it set up a titanic Belmont battle against one of the biggest clubs in the county - Gravesend & Northfleet from the Southern League. 

Sadly, Whitstable lost that big match 0-3. Unlike Ian, I wasn't at that Gravesend game and I can't recall the reason for missing out. However, I do remember hearing the roars a quarter of a mile away in Railway Avenue. Reputedly, it attracted the biggest ever crowd to Belmont (2,500).... but did it? 

In his article "The Record Attendance: Whitstable  v Gravesend - 1957 " Ian describes the events of that memorable day... and refers to another big attendance for a Kent Amateur Cup match 6 years earlier.

    

Club Notes & Team Sheets... The Story '57/58....

  

The programme's Club Notes may have seemed  brief and lacking in detail back in the 1950s. However, fifty years on, they tell the story of a season and give clues to an era. 

The programme for that 1957 FA Cup match against Canterbury City announced a new scheme for pensioners.... 

  


Club Notes: 'Whitstable v Canterbury' 21 September 1957

   

They were allowed into the Belmont for 9d (3.6 new pence). Quite right too. I am not sure what the State pension amounted to in 1957.... but I seem to recall that my old dad's basic wage was around 8-10s for his work in the shunting yard at Faversham. No.... not an hourly rate... a weekly one!

As we have already seen, Whitstable knocked City out of the Cup that day. The Club Notes for the next round showed just how much language and terminology has changed in 50 years.....

    


Club Notes: 'Whitstable v Betteshanger' 5 October 1957

  

We were urged 'not to forget' to give 'our boys all the encouragement' we could.... otherwise it would have  completely slipped my mind! The notes also suggest that hitstable had made a solid start to the season... and it was all down to the 'age old' policy of 'keeping a winning side'. 

Sadly, that Plan A didn't last long. Within a couple of months, a few desperate measures were unveiled for a match with Folkestone - with Paddy Maher switching to the left wing......

 

 

By the time Canterbury revisited the Belmont for a League match on 23 November, desperation had become panic and the 'age old' Plan B had been being implemented - ie change everything!..... 

  

 
Club Notes: 'Whitstable v Canterbury' 23 November 1957

   

Manager Len Henson had brought in some new signings, including a young Ray Keam at right half and switched O'Donoghue to inside right..... 

  

 

By Christmas, we were on to Plan C and Len had even pencilled himself in at left half for the home match against Tunbridge Wells....

  

 

     

It wasn't until mid-February that Plan A was re-introduced with a semblance of a settled side... 

 

 

 

 

    

  

   

Unfortunately, it all came a bit too late and the Reds finished the season second from bottom...

  

1956/57

P W D L F A POI
  ............              
12 Faversham 32 8 6 18 64 87 22
13 Deal 32 8 6 18 46 79 22
14 Betteshanger CW 32 8 6 18 41 76 22
15 Sheppey 32 6 8 18 44 79 20
16 Whitstable 32 8 4 20 39 82 20
17 Chatham 32 8 3 21 68 105 19

Kent League Division 1: The Bottom Six - 1957/58 

  

The early of promise of 1957 had melted away amidst a season of change.

 

Name Spotting.....

   

One of the great things about the old Kent League was that most matches were local derbies and spectators got to know and understand the opposition. We knew their colours, some of their players.... and what had happened the last time we met them! There were also transfers between the clubs. 

That team sheet for the league game against Canterbury on 23 November 1957 brings back some memories.... 

   

   

Canterbury fielded an accomplished left half from Scotland...... one Willie Craig. During the late 1960s, Willie became player manager at Whitstable and built a team that lifted the Kent League Cup in 1971. It was the first major trophy success since the club won the Kent Amateur Cup in 1928. 

Canterbury's right half was also a well known character - Alex Higgins. At the end of his playing days, Alex became involved in scouting for City and coaching youngsters. I remember him coming to our school (Simon Langton) to coach the juniors.

  

Name Spotting - Other Opponents

   

Another very familiar Kent League name doesn't appear in any of Ian's programmes... but it is one that my old dad mentioned on many occasions. It was that of striker, Peter Vandepeer, who had a distinguished Kent League career with Sittingbourne, Margate and Faversham. He was also well known to many local youngsters for his mid-week role..... as PE teacher at Canterbury Technical High School (now known as the Geoffrey Chaucer School).

I wonder if his pupils actually realised just how good he was. I certainly didn't fully appreciate my dad's praise... until I browsed the Margate FC History Web Site. This is a sample of Vandepeer's goals record....

  

1951/52
42 goals for Sittingbourne to finish as the league's joint top scorer for the season
1952/53 33 goals for Sittingbourne to finish as the league's second highest scorer 
1953/54 30 goals for Margate including 5 hat tricks to finish as the league's second highest scorer 
1954/55 46 goals  for Margate in 40 games including 3 hat tricks and a 'four goal' haul
1955/56 30 goals for Margate in 26 games including a club record 5 goal tally in an 8-0 hammering of Sheppey in March 1956.
1956/57 9 goals for Margate in 8 games
30 goals for Faversham as player manager
(Details reproduced with kind permission of Jeff Trice at the Margate FC History Web Site ( http://www.margatefchistory.co.uk

 

During his 'three and a bit' seasons at Margate, he inflicted some severe damage on Whitstable - scoring 10 goals against the Reds. In 1955, he created mayhem in the space of a single week! On 3 December, he scored four goals at the Belmont to help Margate to an 8-0 victory. Seven days later, he hit three more to secure a narrow 3-2 win over Whitstable in the return fixture at Hartsdown Park.

In 1956, Peter became an even bigger thorn in Whitstable's side.... by becoming player manager for our arch rivals, Faversham! He spent three seasons at Faversham and guided the club to two Kent Amateur Cup trophy successes. For more information, take a look at  http://www.margatefchistory.co.uk/petervandepeer.htm .

All this makes me wonder if anyone can add stories or memories for other memorable players and matches involving Whitstable..... including the ones mentioned in Ian's programme extracts above.

  

Name Dropping?

  

I have always felt that the purpose of life is to learn to disapprove. The older you get, the better you become at it. So, let me practice my improving 'disapproving' skills by asking a very direct question.... Who the hell started the modern day trait of referring to Whitstable Town FC as the 'Oystermen'? I shudder every time I hear or read it! 

I have ploughed through Ian's old programmes and I have found no reference to the term. I have dredged the deepest recesses of my memory banks.... and I cannot recall a single occasion when anyone ever shouted 'Up the Oystermen' from the massed ranks of the Gas Works End during the 1950s.

In those days, we still had a few real oystermen on the steps of the Gas Works End (assuming they weren't actually working)..... and they didn't call the team 'The Oystermen'. In fact, I very much doubt that they even called themselves Oystermen! They were fishermen who probably fished all sorts of things in their time.

The "Oystermen" title appears to have arrived with the mewses, art & pot shops and out of town supermarkets. The club was always known as 'The Reds".... and that is the way that it should stay! Strewth, we'll have some young whippersnapper DFL renaming the Gas Works End as Crustacean Mews if we are not careful.

   

With Thanks to Ian....

    

I would like to extend special thanks to Ian Johnson for sharing his collection with the readers of Simply Whitstable.

   


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